Thousands of hectares of England’s countryside are set to benefit from further protection thanks to 2 grants to be rolled out under the Countryside Stewardship scheme this month.
The new hedgerows and boundaries capital grant opens for applications today (1 February) and closes on 30 April 2016. It offers up to £5,000 for farmers who want to restore boundary features, such as hedges and stone walls, to protect their local wildlife or landscape.
The Forestry Commission’s woodland creation grant is also opening this month (16 February to 31 March 2016 for initial applications) and offers farmers and other land managers up to £6,800 per hectare to plant, weed, and protect young trees.
As well as improving the landscape, creating new woodland can support wildlife and improve water quality. It can also help to reduce flood risk as part of an integrated approach to catchment management. In the right place, woodland can play an important role in reducing flood waters, delaying their passage to watercourses, and decreasing siltation, increasing the capacity of river channels.
Farming Minister George Eustice welcomed the opening of the application rounds, saying:
This Countryside Stewardship scheme has a crucial role to play in helping to restore habitats so we can see a recovery in wildlife populations like farmland birds and pollinators, while creating larger woodlands will also help reduce flood risk.
Through our 25-year Environment Plan we will be looking at delivering benefits across wider landscapes and whole water catchment areas by bringing together Countryside Stewardship, flood protection and other environmental spending.
Natural England’s Chief Operating Officer, Guy Thompson, said:
The new hedgerows and boundaries grant comes as we’re bringing in a whole raft of improvements – such as providing better guidance material, lengthening application windows, and introducing a new online tool – to Countryside Stewardship this year to ensure it continues to bring much-needed benefits to our natural environment.
We’re seeing significant results through our agri-environment schemes, including farmers looking at ways they can improve their farming practices to reduce the risk of flooding – whether that’s through improving their crop management, creating new habitats, reducing soil erosion, or working together at a catchment-scale.
We encourage farmers to apply for these grants so we can continue to make Countryside Stewardship better this year.
Richard Greenhous, Director of Forest Services for the Forestry Commission, said:
We were particularly impressed by the good quality of applications we received last year to create woodlands. We want to build on that first year and look forward to working with farmers and other land managers in 2016 to help them create woodlands that are good for biodiversity and water.
The second round of the Countryside Stewardship facilitation fund, which brings together farmers, foresters and other land managers to improve their local natural environment, opened recently for submissions and will close on 18 March 2016.
Countryside Stewardship will commit around £900 million to benefitting the environment between now and 2020. This is on top of the £2 billion already committed for existing agri-environment schemes such as Environmental Stewardship.
See the Countryside Stewardship page for more information about these grants and how to apply.